Interview by: Cassandra Gaston
Photos by: Cameron Cobb

This week we caught up with Max Hartman, composer, actor and front man for Dallas based band MUR. On tap we talk about the new album, struggles with substance abuse, mental health issues plus more.

Check out the exclusive premiere for MUR’s latest single “Long Way From The Weekend” in this post as well!

GBS:
After a long hiatus, your new album “Fire Escapes” will be released on Sept. 9th, how does it feel to be releasing new music?

Max:
It feels so good to finally be able to celebrate this record release. Ive lived with some of these tunes for a long time which probably made it harder to finish them actually. Way too much time to overthink which I am woefully good at. So to finally release this damn thing into the world feels great.

GBS:
Your new album is about overcoming your own mental health struggles and substance abuse, was it hard for you to be so open about these struggles in your music?

Max:
Oh my God yes. But I hope coming right out and talking about it gives others permission to do the same. I’ve had so many friends struggle with the same things so I think my subconscious was writing songs for all of us that endure that slog of self doubt and self sabotage. I think a lot of people will relate and hopefully feel less alone in that struggle. Many of these songs are about getting back up from the gut punches of life. The title Fire Escapes may be a bit on the nose but the saying “If you’re going through Hell, keep going” is appropriate. I was trying to explore ways of escaping the Hell we sometimes create or imagine we’re in.

GBS:
You have said “Fire Escapes” is inspired by Pink Floyd, Elbow, David Bowie, and Jeff Buckley; are there any specific songs that helped shape your album?

Max:
I couldn’t pin it to particular songs necessarily but I’d say Pink Floyd’s The Wall was a big influence stylistically and lyrically. Lots of themes of isolation and coming to terms with the madness of exposing your insides in public. Their musical sophistication while still being uncomplicated and their cerebral cleverness while being so emotionally raw and confessional always spoke to me. Elbow carries on that tradition with albums like Leaders of the Free World. Bowie has always been a favorite and certainly far more adventurous than me but much like the Beatles I love how he was bound to no genre really. Space Oddity (Major Tom) was an all time fave since I was a kid. And when Jeff Buckley’s Album Grace came out the lead off single Our Last Goodbye kind of hit me square in the face. I was like this bastard put all of my favorite vibes into one song. And his voice good lord.

GBS:
The proceeds of your albums sales will benefit Deep Ellums Foundation 45, a support group for individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts and addiction. How did you find this foundation?

Max:
Back around 98 I was in a band Too Much TV with Broose Dickinson who was involved with an art space in Deep Ellum with Frank Campagna. That’s when I met Frank’s son Frankie who was this little punk rocker kid like 9 yrs old. Loved that kid. When I moved back to Dallas in late 2010 he was one of the first familiar faces I saw in Deep Ellum. He was now this 21 yr old frontman of punk outfit Spector 45 hangin out with his crew at Trees and when he saw me he rushed over and gave me this big hug and couldn’t have been more kind and excited to welcome me back to town. He seemed to be on top of the world and then a few months later he took his own life. I’d lost many friends in my 20s just like that. Outgoing happy seeming people on top of the world but secretly struggling big time. Foundation 45 was started by several deeply affected by his loss in an attempt to provide a place for those who struggle with similar issues and I just immediately thought I’ve got to help this group somehow. So I’m donating proceeds from this album to them to raise awareness and hopefully to help fund what they’re working to provide the community. It’s about time to be able to talk openly about mental health and the addictions that so often come along for the ride.

GBS:
You said you found healing in writing this album, what song on this album gave you the most catharsis?

Max:
That’s hard to say. Every time I sing the closing of the first track Climb and Fall pleading “Just Stay Alive” that’s a tough one because those I lost that I’m partly singing that to aren’t coming back. But I damn sure hope anyone who listens will be. Just hang on a little bit longer it gets better I swear. The wreckage you leave behind when you check out is way worse.

GBS:
How did your band mates respond to your lyrics of this album? Did they relate to your words?

Max:
I don’t know actually we haven’t really talked about it I probably should have asked haha but they know me well and have been incredibly supportive and patient during this drawn out process.

GBS:
As well as being a musician, you are also an actor. Do you have any projects in the works?

Max:
Yeah I’m a company member of Kitchen Dog Theater where I’m currently in rehearsals for a show set to open in October called A Stain Upon The Silence which is a collection of Samuel Beckett and Beckett inspired monologues. I play a Coach having a nervous breakdown at a press conference after a miserable losing season. So this album has me primed for that role! Lol. I’ve done some indie films lately like Treading Water, Suburbanite, and The Gabriella Order and you can often hear my voice over work as I’ve been the voice of Dominos commercials for several years. I’m so grateful to have had that gig to help pay for my creative efforts like this album. So check out the new Mur album and order some Dominos!

More on MUR:
http://www.murdallas.com
https://www.facebook.com/MurDallas
https://www.instagram.com/murdallas
https://soundcloud.com/manofmur

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